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Zungu remains positive about future

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Dr Sibongile Zungu, head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

Durban - Despite being unsure about her future as head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Dr Sibongile Zungu said she remained positive.

She said she was still waiting to be notified by Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, whether she would stay on after her five-year contract expires next month.

Under normal circumstances, Dhlomo would have notified her three months prior to the expiration of her contract, she said.

However, this coincided with the recent general elections, and she understood that the MEC had to first be reappointed, or a new one appointed, before her future was determined.

“I’ve had a good five years. I was fortunate to work with a responsive team who shared my vision and showed commitment,” Zungu said.

She said this was a “blessing”, to have such support as she tackled the department’s “titanic” challenges.

She said she was pleased with progress made since 2009, when she found the department had overspent its budget by R2.3 billion. Over the years, this had been brought down to under R500 million. “For me this is quite an achievement.”

Zungu also credits the 80 000 employees for achieving tangible results.

“We have improved the life expectancy of the people of KZN, reduced mother to child (HIV) transmission, (and) as a province, we have the highest number of people who are accessing ARVs (antiretrovirals),” she said.

“We have also far exceeded 400 000 circumcisions without a single person dying, increased the coverage of immunisations for under-5-year-olds and reduced the maternal mortality figures which all contribute to development in the province, the country’s development indicators and the Millennium Development Goals.”

She said the biggest challenges were attracting health professionals, especially doctors, to rural areas, professional specialist nurses and lately, radiographers and pharmacists.

“It’s not easy to carry the administrative obligations of the KZN Department of Health,” Zungu said.

Whether she will still have to carry this load from next month remains to be seen, but Zungu said she was prepared for whatever decision.

“I am a health professional in my own right. Before I came here I was somewhere, before that I was here and before that I was somewhere else. I have worked around the country in different portfolios and have experience in a number of fields,” Zungu said.

“My qualifications also do not confine (me) to medicine so I have options.”

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